My last serious attempt to get into chess ran into a basic difficulty with the program: with a bit of work, I got to a point where I could beat difficulty 1 or 2 on a scale of 10, but got consistently clobbered when I took on difficulty 3. I have subsequently looked, but not found, chess programs where I can normally find a difficulty that lets me win, say, 40%-60% of the time, and this remains true when I incrementally learn to improve my game.

What, if any, chess engines out there offer finer gradations in the level of difficulty? It would be nice to have engines that offer more than one realistic way of offering an easier opponent. And ideally make mistakes that would make actual sense as an understandable mistake in a game of chess, not arbitrarily weakening the opponent by e.g. having a 1 out of n chance of making a random legal move.


2 Answers 2


My favorite program for this is Chess Tiger Pro This is a paid app.

You can set difficulty in 50 elo point increments. Some programs, such as shredder, allow you to set exact rating number. I like Chess Tiger Pro because it seems to play poorly better than other programs. I mean more human like mistakes.

  • And just how accurate is that setting? Would that still work if the OPer had an ability that varied (due to mistakes?) over a very wide range or ELO? Feb 15, 2020 at 18:35
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    I am skeptical of elo strength settings accuracy. I assume it is inaccurate unless it is proven in play. But it does not need to be accurate for you to set it to a elo that works for you. Just try it and raise/lower as needed. Feb 15, 2020 at 18:38
  • I mostly agree. But I think part of the problem is how consistent is Christos Hayward. But I also question if they can fine tune the elo when most players bounce around in 200+ point range. Feb 15, 2020 at 18:45
  • I don't even know if I know if I'm consistent. But perhaps I should clarify and say that I would expect to win 50 ± ε % if I am able to give the game good, mindful concentration and am in a good but not exceptional mental state. Ergo, I don't ask that the program only beat me 50 ± ε % of the time if I'm stressed, tired, or distracted, or otherwise impaired. But I would like to have a good chance of winning, and a good chance of losing, if I'm in a generally good mental state, and I play against the program. Feb 15, 2020 at 18:55
  • Additionally, I've studied math in the past and have learned what I feel like when my mind is doing well and when I'm impaired; I feel markedly different when I am heavily impaired and when I'm in a good state. Based on non-chess experience in the past, and knowing how I can do well and how I can fail, I think I could apply external lessons to chess and know when I am in a good mental state and when bad, and I would only feel like trying to learn chess when I am not impaired. Based on that metric, I would limit my request to being able to win 50 ± ε % of the time when I am in a decent state. Feb 15, 2020 at 19:04


There are not that many programs designed to do that and most engines are intended to find the best move and have the highest rating. And it would also depend on how consistent you are and how often you make mistakes.

Fine grain difficulty is hard to do as there are way too many variables in the person playing. And controlling the program is also not trivial to achieve that goal.

Depending on your weaknesses, and the programs shortcomings, any program may or may not be too hard/easy for you. And your inconsistency may make that program change from day to day.

Your best chance is to look for one with some range of difficulty that occasionally makes weak moves on purpose; or else find a program that has a finer range of how far ahead the program will look. That would change the amount of time the program would need to maintain its set level which could become too long for you to accept.

I know of at least one program that does make mistakes on purpose. There may well be some more. But if they are easy enough for you to win 40-60% of the time is a question.

Winning at the rate you would prefer would mean that the 'rating' of both you and the program were about the same. Hopefully you would learn to play better and then be winning so much that you think the program is too easy.

So would that program still have enough control over its difficulty for you? You might need yet another program to find the sweet spot you desire.

Best would be for you to try improving your ability and to play in Quads of players who have similar ratings. Pairings are made based on the people with the closest ratings so you should have good matches like you want. Whether you win too much or too little depends on your variability as well as theirs.

Another good bet is for you to play online and get a rating. Then you could find players or events that fit your skill level and get the type of win/loss ratio that you think is good for your goals.

If you want a program then there is a long list of them here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_chess_software#Chess-playing_programs_for_personal_computers

Check reviews and see if any of them do what you want to do. Alternatively you could try an engine that gives you control over how it works and customize it yourself.

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